The Growing Season

 

WP_20180526_001

The double impatiens by my front door.

I have been reflecting on growth and change lately. I tend to do that at the end of a school year. Some years there are more things to reflect on, a personal growing season.

It could be because I took a leap of faith last spring and left the comfort and known of a school I had been in since it’s door opened, albeit, following my principal and making the leap with quite a few familiar faces. It was a leap just the same. I’m happy to report that it all worked out well. I love my new school and my team and the faculty at large. I love the changes I made this year that reinvigorated my teaching.

Not all was new, it was tweaked, it was grafted on to the best of the old to create the new. Much like the flowers you see in the photograph above. I bought a double impatiens last spring and kept it going all winter in my garage. I enjoy gardening and always wish I had more time to tend the garden. I have usually buy seedlings and divide existing plants and occasionally start from seed, but for the first time I used rooting powder and took cuttings to create a brand new basket of the cascading pink blooms. Creating new from the old, and my first venture of this kind of propagation I would call a success.

I think we do this all the time in our lives, we make changes and additions based on our previous circumstances and experiences. Not too much is created from nothing. Even innovations in this world are born from a need to fix or improve something that existed before.

I went with some friends to see the new movie “Book Club” today and I went in with the preconceived idea that it would be funny, light-hearted and particularly relatable to women in their forties and over. I was not disappointed. However, I was surprised by the message it clearly delivered.

I have discussed with my Mama the concept that some older folks stop living, long before they actually die and both of us reject that notion. In the movie, the four friends are faced with their aging and what that might mean for their next season of life and they end up embracing their lives fully.  Propagating new from the old.

So perhaps in our lives, the growing is perpetual, as long as we are mindful to cultivate it. At some points the growth is slow and steady, other times it is rapid and disruptive. the important thing is we keep growing, from the moment of our first breath to our last.

 

How A coconut bra made me feel like a full-fledged​ member​ of my family tree

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 7.40.07 PM

I have been uncomfortable my whole life, being silly in front of anyone outside my inner circle of trust. The serious side of things has always been my comfort zone. I like to think I’m well-educated, cultured and worldly in my views. I enjoy books, crossword puzzles, and PBS. I just couldn’t get on the reality TV bandwagon. So when I agreed to participate in my school’s musical for a cameo, imagine my chagrin when I realized I would be wearing a coconut bra. Thankfully that was to be worn over a shirt, with a grass skirt and an over the top wig.  I went with it, for the team of course.

A funny thing happened once I was strapped in and incognito with my platinum blonde locks. Something within me said this is part of your DNA.  I relaxed and I relished the chance to be part of the experience.

See, in my family dressing up in wigs, silly hats and other paraphernalia is a regular experience. It happens mostly on my mother’s side of the family, but my dad in the past has worn some crazy costumes for parties.  Below is a picture of my mother, my Great-Aunt Helen, and my Grandmother.

family glasses

My grandmother and her sister were two ladies that knew how to have some fun and being silly and enjoy life, one of the reasons they both lived so long.

When I turned forty, I became comfortable in my skin, but that never extended into taking to the stage in a comical role. As I look at ending my forties this fall, I find not only that I’m comfortable dancing around a stage in a coconut bra and wig, I actually enjoy it.

I can’t help but think Grandma would be proud.

Sweet Sleep

 

WP_20180428_001

My Sweet Ella snoozing away

The Spring season is in full swing, there are five weeks left in the school year, the weeds and uninvited plants have shown up like unruly party crashers and I am trying to maintain my writing life, and tend my friendships. Needless to say, the to-do list is long, the hours required to keep up are many and sleep is elusive even when I’m tucked in under the covers.

I have been plugging away this Saturday bouncing my attention between tasks for school, housework and yard work and oh yes that thing I do called writing.  I sat for a moment to check messages and saw this cuteness across the room from me. Clearly, my four-legged family members live the life of Riley.

I would love to take a nap, but this weekend anyway I simply can’t afford that luxury. However in five weeks, life will put on the brakes and for a short while, I will be primarily a writer, beachgoer and yes, nap taker. It makes me smile to think of the hazy days of Summer.

This current frenetic pace will pass and it will return again in August. That is one of the beautiful things about this life, it will change, it will speed up or slow down, somehow just when we need it to. June 5th I will sleep, maybe all day, until then I will power on and sleep vicariously through my sweet fur babies.

 

 

A Touch of Whimsy

 

WP_20180422_001

A little garden space tucked in among the buildings of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Campus.

I took a friend over to the hospital today for an MRI. It is Sunday and it was a much quieter place than when I went with her this past Tuesday to spend the day going to a series of appointments. She is undergoing cancer treatments and she has been spending the better part of many days at the hospital the last few months.

The cancer center has its own building, but for some tests, you do go to one of the other buildings. The radiologist on Tuesday did not want to wait for an MRI, so here we were on a Sunday and it was pleasantly in and out. We even got parking on the first floor of the garage. We had to go in the main entrance and that took us by this little garden space off of the part of the campus known as the horseshoe.

When you’re at a hospital unless it’s to welcome a new baby into the world, it’s usually a situation of serious thought, concern, fear, and worry. So the sight of that frog sitting on the bench was a happy surprise. I can’t imagine someone not having a happy reaction to this whimsical frog.  I imagine children coming to and from the hospital find him magical.

Life is full of serious things. There are plenty of things to stress over, many not in our control. It’s during these times when life seems lean heavily to the serious side that we need to insert a little whimsy to balance it all out. How wonderful when we happen upon it unexpectedly like the frog on the bench.

It reminded me to keep my eyes open, to appreciate a little whimsy when I find it. Stop, smile and de-stress, Our problems won’t disappear, but maybe we’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle them.

 

Lowcountry Field of Dreams

 

WP_20180414_001

A field at Shipyard Park on the Wando River

A sunny Spring Saturday morning, little league baseball at a state of the art facility overlooking the Wando River is one example of what makes our community a great place to live. We have a beautiful new facility called Shipyard Park, with multiple fields complete with dugouts and fold down stadium seats under shade. There is a walking path that skirts the fields and goes along the river and a well-stocked concession stand. The fields are covered in astroturf, although I noticed that didn’t keep the players from soiling their white pants. There are working electronic scoreboards and even a pro-shop for all your baseball needs.

Parents coach and cheer, kids learn valuable teamwork and sportsmanship skills and we all get time in the sunshine unplugged from the digital world. I’m sure there were some present clicking away on their smartphones, but the majority of on-lookers were gadget free.

I was there to support a child I think of as a nephew, his dad has been like a brother to me for years and he is one of the coaches. He is an ideal example of what a coach should be, encouraging, teaching and being a great role-model. I am impressed and proud every time I witness him coach.  The younger son who plays on his own team serves as the bat boy for his brother’s team and Mom, she is the ultimate fan, I doubt she ever misses a game.  She is a fellow teacher and also one of the best examples of a mother/parent I have ever witnessed. I love them all and I love that they think to invite me to come to games.

I love watching baseball live, there is something about the atmosphere, the pace of the game is slow enough that I don’t get whiplash, like basketball and fast enough that I don’t get bored, plus it is simple to follow and understand. I enjoy professional baseball, my dad just got tickets for the two of us to take in a National’s game this summer and I have been a Red Sox fan for decades. I enjoy our local minor league team, the Charleston Riverdogs. But there is something special about the kid’s version of the game.

Maybe it’s the joy the kids exhibit when a teammate makes a hit, or scores a run. It could be the encouraging words that float around, “Great catch” or “Nice throw”, you don’t hear that at professional games. Baseball requires teamwork and so does life. I suppose the same could be said for football, soccer, basketball etc. Team sports bring a community together and foster the development of skills that will carry on long after the players leave the field. It gets kids out of the virtual world and into the real world.

It gives me hope that the generation that’s coming up is not going to be self-centered or self-serving, but work as a team to make our country and the world a better place. That may seem naive or optimistic as if I’m ignoring the complex and numerous issues that face our society today. I would remind you that on the baseball field is where real integration efforts were made, well before Civil rights laws. Perhaps that’s why the baseball field is a field of dreams.

 

 

The Gift of Time

 

WP_20180405_003

Hampton Park, Charleston, SC

It is Spring break here this week and that has freed me up for writing and I am finally moving forward again on my fourth novel, I may even finish it this week. The gift of time from my teaching responsibilities I have consciously made the effort not to squander.

The old adage of all work and no play makes Julie a dull girl, nagged at me. As the week began I was talking with a friend whose’s first question to me was what are you going to do this week? I rattled off m plan to write, go to doctor appointments, take the dogs for their annual shots, etc.  Her next question was what are you going to do for fun?

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that if we aren’t working on something we are somehow wasting time. In our culture, it is un-American to be unproductive.  When I get exhausted from the pace, I sometimes wish I was European, where they seem to have a better way to balance.

After I got off the phone with this friend, I decided that if opportunities came up for fun this week I was going to take it. That night a post came through from a teaching colleague who had moved away and was in town for the week, inviting me to join her and others at a Tuesday afternoon happy hour. I immediately replied yes. Then I accepted a same day invite to join two friends for dinner. At the happy hour, I set up a coffee date at my favorite french cafe with another friend. Each day I have gotten an invite to join in or meet up for fun and I have accepted every one. I call all these invites a God wink, a nudging to do what I need to do to refuel and refresh. Isn’t that what Spring break is supposed to be about?

Unlike teaching, I can’t write for ten or eleven hours a day, I have tried to write for several hours a day breaking the sessions up with moving with housework or yard work and that works for me. The balance between sitting and moving is a conscious effort for health reasons for a writer. While your brain gets a workout and dare I say a drain, your body suffers from the sitting in front of a computer screen. My restless body cries out for movement.

Which brings me to the idea of being still. Another thing that Americans are generally uncomfortable with. After all, if you are sitting still how are you being productive.  I have been using a yoga DVD to improve my flexibility and at the end of each session, there is a segment of lying still and focusing in on your breath. At first, it was awkward, I wanted to just jump up and move on to the next task, the work of yoga was done. Now, I enjoy the time, after all, it’s sanctioned by the yoga instructor as part of the workout, so it’s not wasting time.

This same friend that questioned me at the beginning of the week is battling an aggressive cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation plus a barrage of doctor’s appointments. The gift of time means something entirely different for her. She is forced to spend lots of time sitting around and waiting for tests, waiting for treatment, waiting to feel better.  The finite nature of time in a human life has been brought to the forefront of thought.

Shouldn’t that be true for all of us, diagnosis or not? Our lifetime is finite, some of us with have more years than others, but none of us should squander the time we have been given. Does that mean we have to fill our days and nights with productivity? I say yes and no. Yes, make your life count, stand up for a cause, do work that makes this world a better place. No, because this life we have is not a full life if we don’t share with others, enjoy it and take moments to be still and reflect on it.

As this was one of my friend’s chemo weeks, she requested I bring her a strawberry milkshake, one thing that she can have that doesn’t seem to make her nauseous. Spending time with her has become a priority for me. She is ten years older and our friendship is like a big sister and little sister. She makes me laugh and is a sounding board when I grapple with life’s issues. I can only hope that I give her as much as she has given me. It was nice to take her one in the middle of a weekday afternoon. It was a beautiful out so we took our milkshakes a block over to Hampton Park, which sits outside the gates of The Citadel. We found a sunny bench to sit and watch our fellow park visitors. We chatted some and also sat in companionable silence. At one point she asked me what I was thinking about. I told her I was just soaking in the park and the sunny day, which was true, but I was also thanking God for the gift of time with my wonderful friend.

 

Celebrating Sandal Season

WP_20180323_002One of my Favorite read aloud characters is a kindergarten girl who sometimes wishes she has grown-up lady feet. Her parents try to convince her that little girls should be footloose and fancy-free, but she will have none of it until the uncomfortable shoes and tights she wears for her aunt’s wedding are shed under the table and the joys of loose feet are discovered.

That joy is what I feel every sandal season. I enjoy loose feet so much I’ll wear sandals on warm winter days. These first few days of spring have been more lion than lamb days, although the afternoon temperatures have reached respectably mild levels for March. I have worn sandals every day, even if I’ve had to wear a winter coat in the morning. I fully intend to wear sandals until I’m forced in October or if I’m lucky, November, to wear closed shoes on a regular basis.

Sandals make me think of sunshine, fresh breezes and days on the beach. I could happily live in a place where I could wear sandals three-hundred-sixty-five days a year. Here in coastal South Carolina, I think it comes close to at least three-hundred. I’ m just happier and more relaxed about things when my feet are free.

Thinking about sandals and the joy they bring me is a good reminder that it truly is the simple things in life that can make you feel blessed. Savor the small joys, they add to big rewards.

Footloose and fancy-free, that’s how I want to dance through my days. So feeling tired or overwhelmed by what life is throwing your way? Try freeing those tootsies and step them out into the sunshine. It just might bring a smile to your face and a lift to your soul.

Replacing What’s Rotten

 

WP_20180224_001

My handiwork…

I discovered that a few sections of the back fence were rotting. The boards disintegrating with a touch, despite the fact they looked perfectly fine from a distance.  It’s mostly my fault. I had been trowing yard debris over to the wooded area of my property thinking I was composting Mother Nature’s way. Unfortunately, most of my pitches had landed too close to the boards and over time a layer of dirt and debris had sat up against the boards causing the rot.

So I have begun the replacement process, thirty-seven down and twelve to go to address the most critical areas. There will be more in the future for those not so critical this moment and the fact I could not get a matching style unless I bought boards that would require me to cut off two feet from each board, which seemed a bit wasteful to me.

As I pried out nails and knocked out rotting boards I had plenty of time to reflect. True to the nature of my mind I saw a life lesson in my current task. Rot is not just a condition for wood. It is a condition of life. If we don’t maintain, refresh or even replace what’s rotten in our personal lives and in our society, then it will decay and fall apart.

Do you have a toxic, read rotten, relationship that is holding you back? Are you uninspired in your work life? Is your diet fresh? Do you maintain yourself with exercise? Do you give your mind new ideas to ponder? Does our society need changes to make it better, stronger and safer for all?  Dare I say could Congress stand a removal of some rotten wood with replacements who are fresh and new?

I know I can identify several areas in my life I could use a refresh and in some instances a complete replacement. Like the new boards that I hammered in change can build a solid base for me to be stronger and last longer.

As I hauled the rotten broken boards to the curb I wished it was that easy with the rot in our society. I can only change society by the choices I make and the power of my vote and while that can make a difference I know it will take a collaborative effort.

In my own life, I can be more conscious of what might need replacing and choose to do so. After all who wants to just crumble away in decay?

Who knew there would be such an inspiring lesson in the mundane task of fence maintenance?

 

Lowcountry Zen

 

WP_20180215_004

Over the marsh and the Wando River.

I have the enviable task of helping my parent’s in their house hunt and I went with their realtor to view a few properties this week, and even though this particular house was not the right fit the view was definitely something I would love to come home to.

Last year and this year so far seem so chaotic and fast on every level. I have said before the turmoil in the world and our nation have left me feeling anxious and a news-cycle for just a day or two seems like it surely covered at least a weeks worth of events. Even daily life between my teaching life, my writing life, my home life and social life are overwhelming me and I don’t feel I have a firm grasp or that I’m caught up in any area.

When I see a view like the one above it automatically catches my breath, slows my heart rate and commands me to pause, slow down and regroup.  Makes me wonder is it too late for me to move back in with my parents? A view like this is what they will end up with and I plan on spending a lot of time with their view. . .  I mean them.

I don’t think you need a water view to achieve the zen, a walk in a park, a garden, the beach or even a mountain can get us away from twenty-four-hour connectedness and screens. We have to disconnect to reconnect and refresh.

If you come home to a view each day, I imagine it’s a little easier to practice that on a daily basis. The rest of us might need to take a short drive to a beach or a park or take a stroll each day around our back gardens, assuming part of your stress is not the various yardwork chores you’re behind on.

I think I am beginning to understand the appeal of meditation, although I’m lousy at sitting still and clearing my mind sitting in a room. Give me a Lowcountry view like above and my soul makes it easy to sit still and meditate on the spectacular views all around in this magical place I get to call home.

I know we are over half way through February, but I think I can add one more thing to my New Year’s goal list: Stop each day, find a place in nature to disconnect and reach a few moments of zen.

 

 

In Defense Of The Middle

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 3.58.51 PMI met a friend for coffee this morning and we got on the subject of how extreme our world seems to have become. I say seem because I like to think it’s just that those with extreme positions and opinions are the ones who are making the most noise.

I don’t care for heavy duty political debate, although I have my opinions, I try to keep them out of my relationships and I try to be respectful of the opinions of others even if I don’t agree. It can be challenging, but I think it is worth the effort to try and understand a differing point of view. That is what builds bridges of compassion and understanding.

Call me crazy but I’d like to see people get along and be productive. Always move forward and continue to make this world a better place, I believe that is our responsibility for the privilege of living this life.

The extremes have hijacked the media coverage and the social media platforms painting those with opposing views as evil or nefarious. Compromise has become a dirty word. Respect and manners have been lost, leaving civilization without its civility.

I shake my head sometimes and wonder if the young people of today will think this is how we should treat others. Will society continue to decay or will the next generation turn things back around to a society where respect, manners, and compassion dictate our interactions with others.

I like to think we won’t have to wait for the next generation. Those of us in the reasonable, moderate middle, who see both sides of an issue and can envision what a compromise might be, need a clarion call to reclaim the message. I believe there are more of us than those on the extreme ends, it’s the bell curve. We need to be loud enough in our demands to quiet the noise and move this world forward.

I’m not a revolutionary, I don’t wish to weigh in on political issues, but I’d like to turn on the news or read the newspaper or a newsfeed and see the reasonable people better represented. We are the bridge between the extremes and it’s time we stop shaking our heads mystified while the two sides batter the issues back and forth as if we are watching a tennis match.

I will not write my own opinions on specific issues, the world is flooded with enough of that, but I hope that more #reasonablepeople will start demanding compromise, compassion, and civility from those who make our laws, preach from their bully pulpits and hash out issues across the airways.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day we can bring a little love back to the world.